Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

Location: Fremont, Ohio

Webpage: Presidential Museum

General Description: The Rutherford B. Hayes Center Library was the first Presidential Library, opened in 1916.  It is located in Fremont, Ohio surrounded by the grounds of Spiegel Grove, the estate of Rutherford B. Hayes.  Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio in 1822 the son of Rutherford Hayes, Jr and Sophia Birchard.  His father died 10 weeks before his birth, so he along with his sister, Fanny, were raised by their mother.  He was also very close to his uncle, Sardis Birchard, who became a father figure and since he never married remained close to the family.  After an education in common school in Delaware, he attended and received a law degree from Harvard in 1845.  Hayes moved to Cincinnati to open a law firm in 1850, where he also married Lucy Webb in 1852.  While initially a member of the Whig Party, his legal work defending fugitive slaves led him to the newly formed Republican Party leading to his election to the city council in 1859.  When the Civil War broke out he joined a volunteer company from Ohio where he was promoted to major in the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteers.  Hayes served under multiple commands in western Virginia and West Virginia.  His most notable engagement was leading a charge during the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862.  Hayes ended the war as a Brigadier General.  While serving in the Army of the Shenandoah in 1864, Hayes was elected to the US House of Representatives for Ohio and joined Congress in 1865.  In 1867 he resigned from the House to run for Ohio Governor where he won by a very slim majority of less then 3000 votes.  After winning a second term as Governor he declined a third term and retired from politics in 1872.  Although he devoted himself to his private life, he accepted the Republican nomination for Governor again in 1875 and won, again by a slim margin of just over 5000 votes.  This election as the first third term Governor in Ohio elevated his national political standing.  When he entered his name for the Republican nomination for President in 1876 he was at a distinct disadvantage to James Blaine of Maine.  However, Blaine could not get a majority of the delegates, so on the seventh ballot Hayes won the nomination as a compromise candidate.  His winning by the barest of margins continued as he was faced with Democratic nominee Samuel Tilden, Governor of New York in the general election.  Although Tilden won the popular vote, he won only 184 of the needed 185 electoral votes due to disputed 20 votes in Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oregon.  It was agreed to turn the matter over to a bipartisan Electoral Commission with seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and the Supreme Court Justice Davis, an independent.  Davis refused to serve since he had been elected to Congress and all of the remaining Supreme Court Justices were Republicans.  Every contested state was decided in favor of Hayes along party lines and it almost caused a filibuster from the Democrats threatening the inauguration of Hayes as President.  Hayes agreed to remove federal troops from the state houses in Louisiana and South Carolina, thereby allowing for election of Democratic governments in the southern states.  Thus ended the period of Reconstruction.  Other actions by President Hayes were the end of political appointments in the Civil Service, dealing with the Great Railroad Strike of 1977, and arbitrating the border dispute between Argentina and Paraguay.



1) The Hayes Presidential Library is the first Presidential Library and originated with one of President Hayes sons, The museum is an extensive history of his life and political career, of which they have done a very good job.  In addition to his life, there is also a collection of firearms from his son that dates back to China’s Boer Wars.  I learned a lot about the political history of Hayes as both a Governor of Ohio and President.


2) The Presidential Library is on the grounds of Spiegal Grove, the estate of President Hayes that was for years a summer home for the family, eventually given to Rutherford B. Hayes by his uncle, Sardis Birchard.  As the home remained in the family for generations before being donated to the state, the family has retained all the furniture and other holdings of President Hayes.  Along with detailed photographs of every room, they have been able to restore most of the home to the time of Rutherford Hayes.  The most impressive feature in the house were the extensive use of doors that slid back into the walls throughout the house.  We had a very nice tour of the home by a volunteer that was very knowledgeable about the furnishings, pictures, etc.


3) The grounds of Spiegal Grove are very well maintained and manicured.  There are nice paved walks throughout the estate and a numbered tour of interesting features.  You will find that a number of the old trees have little metal signs attached to them, as it was the custom of Rutherford Hayes to name the trees for notable historical figures and prominent visitors to the estate, a practice that still continues today.


4) President Hayes and his wife are also buried on the estate in a nice gravesite.  Behind the gravesite is also the grave of his beloved horse from the Civil War, Whitie.